In an announcement Tuesday, Ontario’s Education Minister said mobile phones will not be allowed in school classrooms starting in September which is the beginning of the next school year.
The reason is the claim that cell phones are a distraction in class, and without them students will focus on the lesson being taught.
In a statement, Minister Lisa Thompson was quoted saying “”Ontario’s students need to be able to focus on their learning — not their cellphones. By banning cellphone use that distracts from learning, we are helping students to focus on acquiring the foundational skills they need, like reading, writing and math”.
While there are some limited cases in the province of phones being banned in classrooms, the new directive extends to all schools in the province.
- RCI: Feb 2017: One Toronto school bans phones
- RCI: Aug 2013: Study shows computers in class distract
The exceptions are in cases where phones can be used as a specific part of a lesson, or for medical resaons, or for students with special needs.
Criticism of plan
Some in the education field have said the new policy really doesn’t change much as teachers haven’t been allowing inappropriate use of phones in class.
Others say it’s possibly meant as a distraction from other news about changes to come such as the return of children on the autism spectrum to regular classes next month. Some educators and parents have expressed concern about the move without appropriate supports.
Others are concerned the policy may also be to deflect concerns about coming cuts to education funding.
Others have wondered how such a policy would be enforced. Questions are being raised as to whether phones will simply ordered switched off, or confiscated at the beginning of class.
The province says it will be up to individual schools and school boards. The ban however has support from a 2015 study by the London School of Economics that indicated students performed significantly better when phones are banned during instruction.
The western province of Alberta, reacting to the news said it won’t follow Ontario’s example.
Alberta Education Minister David Eggan said the province will leave it up to teachers and school boards to make their own decisions.